By Tim O’Meilia
Despite their unhappiness with spending far more than other coastal cities in a two-year dispute over funding the Palm Beach County Inspector General’s Office, Ocean Ridge commissioners decided to retain their town attorney to handle the case.
“At this point, with a couple of more months to go, it’s probably worth retaining you to go forward,” Commissioner Zoanne Hennigan told Town Attorney Ken Spillias at the Sept. 10 Town Commission meeting.
The other commissioners agreed, although no formal vote was taken.
In August, commissioners questioned why Ocean Ridge had paid $16,510 in legal fees through April in the legal battle with Palm Beach County, three times more than any other South County municipality in the suit.
Fourteen county municipalities sued in 2011, claiming they are being double-taxed if the inspector general’s budget is paid by both Palm Beach County and the cities.
The commission considered withdrawing from the suit or hiring the law firm of Corbett, White & Davis to handle the suit. Corbett, White represents five other towns in the dispute.
“We’re not going to walk away from it at this point. We’re in it,” Commissioner Lynn Allison said of the suit. “On the other hand, we don’t want to continue spending all that money.”
“It seems like we’re doing all the heavy lifting financially,” Commissioner Ed Brookes said. “(Trela White) did some of the work pro bono.”
Spillias said White’s firm charges $190 per hour, compared with his $205. “In terms of raw numbers it was more,” he said. “In terms of legal services provided, I suggest you were not out of whack.”
Most of the pretrial work in the case has been completed, Spillias said. The dispute is set to go to trial, although another request for a summary judgment may be filed first.
Spillias said his firm, Lewis, Longman & Walker, would not be part of the
trial, but would continue to review filings.
In other business, commissioners:
• Released a lien on the Delray Beach property of imprisoned businessman Joseph Romano so the sale of his oceanfront home at 6011 N. Ocean Blvd. in Ocean Ridge could be completed. Romano is serving 15 years in New York on a business conspiracy conviction. More than $50,000 remains in escrow for two liens for building code violations on the Ocean Boulevard property. Romano was cited in 2009 for not having a pool barrier and in 2010 for erecting columns without a permit. The new owners are expected to ask for a reduction in the liens.
• Adopted a public participation policy to meet state law. The policy, similar to the town’s current rules and modeled after those of Manalapan, limits speakers to three minutes, forbids yelling and “boisterous” activity, forbids speaking directly to individual commissioners and requires cellphones to be silenced.
• Tentatively agreed to give right-of-way varying from 15 to 40 feet along Old Ocean Boulevard, just south of Beachway Drive, to the four property owners along the stretch. Town officials say the town does not need the land and said it would be expensive to maintain. The owners have agreed to take the swath of land, some of it overgrown, and provide easements to the town. Town officials will research the best method of transferring the land.
• Decided not to give retiring police Sgt. Eve Eubanks a $1,000 bonus because it violates policy approved last year that allows only 20-year employees to get the bonus. Eubanks worked 15 years. The commission approved the bonus in June, but had to reconsider it since it was not in the form of a resolution.
By Tim O’Meilia